“An icon of Australian television”: Vale Brian Walsh, pioneering executive

Brian Walsh.

Australia’s creative industries are in shock this morning following the news that long-time Foxtel Group executive Brian Walsh has died aged 67.

Walsh was a founding member of the management team that established Foxtel in 1995, going on to oversee all scripted and unscripted commissions for the Foxtel Group.

In drama, he oversaw projects such as Wentworth, Upright, Deadline Gallipoli, The Kettering Incident, The End and most recently, Love Me, Colin from Accounts and The Twelve.

According to the company, he died in Sydney yesterday. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.

In a statement, Walsh’s sisters Maureen, Jeanette, and Bernadette, along with Bernadette’s husband Wayne Cooper and the executive’s nieces and nephews said they were “deeply saddened and shocked” by the loss.

“There are no words to say just how heartbroken we are,” they said.

“He had an extraordinary life and accomplished so much. His contributions were celebrated and widely acknowledged. We will always remember him by his love of family, his generosity and the value he put on a life not wasted but full and well lived.

“His greatest gift was bringing joy to people including through the industry he was so passionate about and all those he collaborated with over so many years. We were so proud of him and we know Mum and Dad would have been too.”

After beginning his career with ABC, Walsh went into feature film production and distribution at Palm Beach Pictures, before spending five years in promotions and publicity at Sydney Radio Station 2SM.

From there, he joined Network Ten, where he launched major network events, including Kennedy Miller mini-series Vietnam, The Bangkok Hilton, and The Dirtwater Dynasty. Walsh is also credited with playing a part in the global success of drama series Neighbours and launching the careers of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, and Guy Pearce.

As a media, entertainment and sports publicist, he is known for the creation of the Simply The Best season launch for the National Rugby League which featured Tina Turner, and also working as a publicist for international concert tours by Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Neil Diamond, Ricky Martin and Barbra Streisand.

Walsh has applied his talents to subscription television throughout the past three decades, initially joining Foxtel as director of programming, publicity and promotions, before becoming executive director of television. He would later go on to head up of Foxtel Originals division, a role in which he was responsible for overseeing all scripted commissions across Foxtel and streaming operation Binge.

He extended his consultancy agreement with Foxtel Group last year, stating at the time that he had “seen some incredible changes in the business” during his time at the company.

Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany said the loss was “heavily felt” by the business.

“This is a very difficult day for the Foxtel Group family, for Australia’s creative community, and the millions of Australians who watched and loved the stories that Brian bought to life through television,” he said.

“Australia’s creative community has lost a much-loved figure in Brian.

“Our condolences go to his family and to those closest to him.”

Others to pay tribute included Beverley McGarvey, executive vice president of Paramount Australia and New Zealand (formerly Network 10), who said Walsh’s role in the launch and revival of Neighbours on Ten would not be forgotten easily.

“The network’s close association with Brian goes back almost to the very start of Neighbours,” she said.

“Brian was instrumental in the now – very famous – series relaunch on 10. It was Brian’s commitment to the show that saw it build from poor early ratings to become the juggernaut we all know and love.

“Just a few months ago, Brian came to Nunawading for a set visit. He absolutely loved it and was welcomed back by cast and crew with open arms. It was clear he had never lost that sense of connection. Brian’s passion for television and for the industry is legendary.”

Walsh was due to appear at this year’s Screen Forever conference in May, an event where he has previously delivered the Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture, and also taken part in a wide range of industry discussions.

Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner said the executive would be remembered as an avid supporter of opportunities to bring about progress and change in our industry.

“Today’s news has come as a shock and deeply saddened myself, the SPA team, our members and the Australian screen sector as a whole,” he said.

“Brian’s contributions to Australian television during his career have helped shape Australian culture and identity on screens locally and internationally, and for this, we will be eternally appreciative and grateful.”

  1. In his late teens, “Walshy” – as he was affectionally known was road showing surf movies from his van up and down the East Coast of Australia.
    He would hire halls and indy cinemas to play these indy surf movies to an enthusiastic youth audience.
    As a surfer and actor I met him on one of these tours and mentioned a project, a surf movie with real actors, I’d call it SUMMER CITY, set it in the sixties with a murder as the main plot and have music and surfing scenes from the era as no one at that time had ever done a movie like that. Brian asked how much would it cost
    I said around sixty thousand dollars, (the price of a surburban house at that time). I’d written a script & was raising funds. Brian said “Wow, great idea, I’d love to invest”, and did so, he was the first investor in the film and championed it throughout production.
    By the time it was released, Brian was working at 2SM as a publicist. 2SM was a radio station that had a daily surf report, sponsored surf contests and a massive youth and surf stoned audience. A perfect fit for Brian.
    ‘Walshy’ – with his great eye for talent and promotion, continued to take risks, investing and encouraging talent in front and behind the lens throughout the decades as his own career shot upwards to eventually head up Foxtel.
    Much admired and loved and missed by many. As they say in the surf world. “Surfs up Walshy R.I.P.”

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